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An Uncertain Fit For Free Agent Dave Tollefson in Green Bay

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An Uncertain Fit For Free Agent Dave Tollefson in Green Bay

As several media members have reported, and we here at CheeseheadTV later passed on, the Green Bay Packers are planning to host free agent Dave Tollefson on Thursday and Friday of this week.

The reasons for Tollefson's visit are fairly obvious.

A former seventh-round pick of Ted Thompson and the Packers back in 2006, Tollefson is likely viewed as a low-priced option that could potentially help bolster Green Bay's pass-rush starved defense. Thompson has always valued players he is familiar with over relative unknowns, and you could make the argument that the Packers should be doing everything they can—whether it be through free agency or the draft—to fix a pass-rush that collapsed the team's defense in 2011.

Call me the Devil's advocate, but I struggle to find the fit for Tollefson.

While he has put up numbers in a rotational role with the Giants, including five sacks in 2011, Tollefson is far from the pure pass-rusher that some have made him out to be. Let our good friends over at Pro Football Focus help highlight that truth.

According to PFF, Tollefson has played on 758 pass-rushing snaps for the Giants since 2008. Over those 758 snaps, Tollefson has registered 10 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 26 pressures, for a grand total of 48 total "pressure plays."

Let's compare that with what the Packers received from incumbent Packers' starter and fellow free agent Erik Walden during 2010 and 2011.

Over 574 pass-rushing snaps the last two seasons—which, mind you, includes just the tail end of 2010, the ensuing playoff run and 2011—Walden tallied five sacks, 15 quarterback hits and 29 pressures. In total, that's 49 "pressure plays." Less snaps rushing the passer for Walden but more overall production.

Even Brad Jones from 2009 to 2011 had a higher pressure-to-snap ratio than Tollefson has during his NFL career.

But even if you think Tollefson is a better overall pass-rusher than what the Packers' currently have the roster, there's still a position change that he would likely have to undergo to make an impact in Green Bay.

Playing with his hand in the dirt exclusively in New York, the 266-pound Tollefson would almost certainly have to transition into a standup 3-4 outside linebacker for the Packers. He's simply too small to play defensive end in a Dom Capers' front.

After the Packers' first expressed interest in Tollefson last week, I took the opportunity to glance over a few of the Giants' games  from last season to help me get a gauge on how the 29-year-old may hold up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I saw a limited athlete that relied heavily on hustle and favorable matchups to make a mark rushing the passer. A transition to the 3-4 didn't look like it should even be on Tollefson's radar, and maybe it's telling that the three other teams reportedly pursuing him are the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who each run 4-3 fronts.

Given the current circumstances, however, I believe the Packers will eventually end up signing Tollefson.

Thompson knows him, he should come relatively cheap and the Packers need to look down any avenue to upgrade their ability to reach the quarterback next season. In addition, the Raiders are currently cash-strapped and the Seahawks already had Tollefson in for a visit late last week.

But that doesn't mean signing Tollefson would be a fix, or even an upgrade over what the Packers' currently have on the roster. If the team truly wants to fix their pass-rush opposite Clay Matthews, they'll likely have to do it with a top pick in this year's draft.

Second-tier free agents, especially ones who will be making a position change and lack tremendous athleticism, aren't likely to be the answer.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (13) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

JAG. Not only JAG, but JAG who's gonna have to learn a new position. This prospect does little for me. Poor mans Aaron Kampman, and oh yeah, btw, we need you to stand up and play coverage too??? Don't get it.


MarkinMadison's picture

The only thing you said that I disagree with is that the Packers will sign Tollefson. At the end of the day, players should want to put themselves in a position to have success. Tollefson is a 4-3 end.

Ebongreen's picture

I too am skeptical that this would be a good fit for either the team or Tollefson. If he's willing to sign for peanuts and go into camp for competition, that's one thing - but some other more talent-needy team will probably offer him more.

I don't really see signing Anthony Hargrove for many of the same reasons. He's a 4-3 three-tech tackle, not a 3-4 end or NT. Where's the beef he'd need to play off double-teams?

chuck's picture

This visit could be an "in case" the draft doesn't fall good for DE/OLB. Just like the Hargrove visit.

I think the interest is more for run support than pass rush. Every team that played us last year could run right by the ROLB. Thinking maybe Dave could be the ROLB in base defense, like McCarthy suggested getting back to a more tradition 3-4. None of the linebackers last year had the muscle to stand up to the run, and no matter who they put in, they got shoved around easily.

I say why not take a look. Who else is there at the position? A bunch of undrafted guys and one seventh (Jones) rounder. Getting a little sick of waiting for one of these guys to "step up", when maybe non of them will. At least he has some size and strength to stand up against the run.

cow42's picture

good point - although it's pretty much the opposite of what i just posted below.

they just need bad-ass football players on that side of the ball. people who are looking to inflict some pain.

cow42's picture

how often are the packers actually in a base 3-4?
bet it's less than 30 percent of snaps.

looks to me like the packers are searching for anything that might possibly be able to find his/her/it's way to the qb... position and/or body-type be damned.

i have a feeling we're going to be seeing some very creative alignments and player combinations come 2012-13.

with rules tilting away from the defense, the only way to beat an offense now-a-days is to confuse it.

chuck's picture

I know everyone is screaming for pass rushers, me too. What killed the Pack against KC and Gmen was they couldn't stop the run to the right side of our defense. Those long drives by the other teams kept our offense off the field and out of synch. The defense couldn't get off the field because of the run, then would give up a huge pass play.

The undrafted DL and OLB need to be upgraded. I don't care how good they are at special teams. Keep one of two for special teams, the others have to play. Especially DL. You have 3 good/decent players at those positions Raji, Pickett, Matthews. Then these guys, Jones, saito, Lattimore, Zumbo, Wynn, Wilson, Neal (gone Green, Walden). Most of those guys could be replaced by other non drafted free agents.

pkrNboro's picture

Maybe it's just an experiment and he signs with no bonus; if it doesn't work out GB can cut Tollefson at the end of camp.

There are so many "red flags" with Tollefson, I think it obscures the bigger problem: the front seven is in bad shape.

Due to age, injury, ineffectiveness, or unsuitability -- these guys just don't have much of an upside:

Green -- 33yr old and listed at 340 (likely much more), didn't show much of a motor

Wynn -- at 285 somewhat small for a 3-4 DE; doesn't get much push

Wilson -- didn't seem to have the same spark after what I thought was a good rookie campaign.

Neal -- ineffectual and in pain 10 weeks after cartilage removal. IMO, that indicates that a lot of cartilage was removed and it wasn't a simple "cleanup." Down the road, I think he'll be looking at micro-fracture surgery to regenerate cartilage -- a real crapshot, as more than half either don't return, or don't perform at pre-surgical level. After the promise he showed in his rookie season, this is sickening.

-- these guys have all had a shot and are not the answer, opposite Matthews.

Lattimore -- at 23x, he may have trouble putting/keeping on the pounds he needs to be able to play OLB.

So'oto -- a pre-season promise as a rusher, but may be a liability in coverage.

I'm thinking that only 6 of these 9 will be on the roster at the end of camp. If Guy can contribute and GB can get 2 defensive starters from the draft, then the exposure of these six will be greatly limited when paired with Pickett, Raji, and Matthews.

However, this is just the front 7. Collins is an medical uncertainty and Woodson will turn 36 early in the season.

This is not just March-naysaying... Despite scoring a team record 560 points (passing the previous best mark of 461 in 2009), six of the regular season victories were by a touchdown (plus conversion), or less.

Shawn's picture

Found this linked on JSonline,( puts Tollefson 3rd worst starting Pass Rusher from the edge in 2011. What I found even more interesting, granted he was a rookie, one of the top draft picks that everyone and their mother wanted the packers to take in the first round last year Brooks Reed, was graded one spot bellow Erik Walden.

PackersRS's picture

Yeah noticed it too.

Walden had some legit games, particularly the game just before he got arrested, he played really well.

But while he had moments of good play, at other times he was just plain awful, particularly against the run. It was painful watching.

jmac34's picture

I have to agree with Zak on this one. Tollefson makes zero sense for a 3/4 team

BubbaOne's picture

TT, MM, and Capers wouldn't sign him unless they had a plan and thought he could carry it out.
That said, I wonder if it's not to be an OLB. Instead he would come in on pass plays and take on the Cullen Jenkins role in the 2-4-5 as a situational pass rusher.

cow42's picture

i kinda like hargrove for this.

i bet a lot gets revealed after hargrove's possible suspension is announced... if he's gonna miss a bunch of games they go with tollefson instead.

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